Young black males are the main perpetrators of murders, but what is being done about it?
According to data from the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), for the period 2015 to 2019, a total of 510 persons were charged with murder.
Of this figure, 490 were males and 90 were females. The statistics show that, with respect to ethnicity, 342 were Afro-Trinidadians and 107 Indo-Trinidadians.
Majority of the persons charged with murders (317) were persons ranging 15-29 years of age.
In the 15-to-19 age group — 63 persons, 20 to 24—134 persons, and 25-to-29 age group- 120 persons.
The Express spoke to former head of the public service, Reginald Dumas, Prof Selwyn Cudjoe and political analyst Dr Winford James, who all shared the same sentiment — the social problem as to why young black males are committing crimes must be placed under a microscope.
Dumas said on numerous occasions he shared the sentiment expressed by Rhoda Reddock who said that the social aspect of crime must be looked at.
“We are dealing with crime from the point of view from law enforcement; we are not looking at it from the other end of the spectrum which is why do so many people get into crime situations, especially young black people? What are the causes? That is what we are not spending enough time looking at,” he said.
“We have known for a long time young black makes are principally involved in the shootings and killings, what are we doing about it?” he added.
Dumas said communities such as Beetham, Sea Lots and Arima are being “demonised” and the people are left to feel a sense of worthlessness.
He noted that at the Emancipation Day celebration, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley himself had said black people were not doing well.
“The question is having said that, what has the Government done?... It is not good talking about ‘one shot one kill’, you kill the fellahs, for every one you kill you have another one waiting, so you not killing the problem. The problem continues and will get worse.
“We have to confront the issue as a society, otherwise God help us,” said Dumas.
In an e-mailed response to the Express, Cudjoe recalled that he had called for the scrapping of the Toco-Manzanilla Highway and money placed into the social sector.
“Little or no money goes into black communities such as ‘Gaza’ which are out of the loop.
“The same is true of the Curepe overpass.
“In other words, we should give serious consideration of who benefits primarily from these projects and who are left out and what impact it has on the black community. This is also true when we think of the increasing tendency to award major contracts to Chinese companies who also bring their workers with them,” he said.
He stated the question of youth and young people unemployment is intensifying this problem of un-belonging and alienation from the society.
“The same is true of culture in which deprived young black men and women sing ‘Gunman in yo’ hole’ and, who, at the same time find themselves without the legitimate means of sustenance.
One calypsonian sang, ‘No money; no love’. More importantly, both at the level of employment and culture it creates ‘TWO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGOS’ in which one does not know what the other is doing while the gap continues to widen,” stated Cudjoe.
Cudjoe questioned whether anyone has sat down with the black youth to find out what is the existentialist angst that drives their lives?
“Has anyone sat down and asked why a 20-year-old would want to buy his own coffin?
“Has anyone ever thought about how it feels to a black youth to see a Cabinet with few black people holding the levers of power?
“We are in a crisis and everything tells us our society is falling apart.
“When gunmen take up guns and begin to challenge the authority of the police we are on the cusp of unravelling as a society.
“It may lead to the formation/development of a totalitarian society. Yet, we make no major effort to face that crisis frontally. There is no major effort to bring the society together to discuss and find solution to the crime problem,” he stated.
‘Ready to explode’
Cudjoe added that T&T is dealing with a national crisis that is ready to explode.
“We know that the 18-29 age group, males (mostly Africans) are the ones charged with the highest rate of murders for 2015-2019. Could we not start there?” he suggested.
“Could we not engage a few hundred students from The UWI or UTT (some recently graduated with nothing to do) to do a scientific sociological study of this group of Trinbagonians (we should also include Indians in the group to be studied) to find out what makes these young people tick — that is, what they say, make them behave how, in their view, they think we can solve the problem?” he added.
Cudjoe stated that there is nothing inherent in the DNA of black people that makes them susceptible to committing crimes or behaving in a destructive manner.
He said the country needs to undertake a serious, scientific sociological study to understand how these young people think and how to find some solutions to these challenges.
“Now is not the time to pray. It is a time to study what is leading our youth and young men to behave how they do (that is, commit crimes) and how they can overcome it.
“This problem will consume/invade the entire society sooner or later if we do not come to grips with it. This is a national plan.
“All our resources should be turned towards solving it. It is neither a PNM problem or a UNC problem. It is national problem,” he stated, adding that 2020 should be declared The Year Against Crime and the entire population should be utilised to fight against crime.
James also shared that conversations must go beyond the National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister.
“We need to widen the conversation on crime to involve people other than the people who we put in power and who populate the National Security Council,” he said.
Crime, he said, is always a product of conditions and people are not born criminals.
He said the underlying reasons as to why people are drawn to a criminal activities and crime must be examined in a wider context and then a national policy created based on those conversations.
“We continue to have spikes in crime; we continue to have the same percentages of perpetrators and there is an ethnic colouration to it, which is quite unfortunate,” he said,
James said factors such as the crash of Afro families, the vulnerable youth and the luring into fast cash via crime are elements to be discussed.